Iris at the memorial meeting for Godfrey in 2012, and in Shackleton Hall, Birmingham with Godfrey and Katt in 1984.
Always there, always inspiring others – an unflappable leader, and a humble servant of the working class.
It is with great sadness that the CPGB-ML has to announce the death of one of its key founder members, Comrade Iris Cremer. She died peacefully on the evening of Wednesday 2 April, just five weeks after she had been diagnosed with an aggressive and already far-advanced lung cancer. Comrades and family were at her side.
Iris leaves behind a daughter, Katt, and a grandson, Fred – along with a host of honorary sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, grandsons and granddaughters to whom she was a mother, sister, aunt and grandmother in all the ways that really count.
Iris’s contribution to the British working-class movement was incalculable. For 45 years she worked tirelessly and without ego, thinking only of what needed to be done and what would bring British workers closer to socialism. To her own convenience or preference, she was utterly oblivious.
Despite the heartbreak of losing her lifelong partner, husband and comrade-in-arms Godfrey Cremer two years ago, Iris never flagged in her commitment or her activity. Quite the reverse in fact – after his death, Iris not only carried on determinedly with her own work but also did everything she could to fill the huge gap that Godfrey had left in our ranks.
As a couple, Iris and Godfrey set the bar high. With a common purpose in life, the strength of their union was reinforced daily, and their shared priority was always to get the work done, come what may. On the morning of their wedding, they were writing a leaflet for a Palestine demo. And on the morning of the day she died, Iris instructed her daughter Katt to hold off calling the ambulance for 40 minutes while acetates for printing the latest issue of Proletarian were printed out. She left home for the last time content in the knowledge that the printing workers could carry on and that the paper would be published by nightfall.
It was Iris and Godfrey’s great sadness to live in a country and at a time when the communist movement was temporarily retreating. Nevertheless, Iris was the stuff that revolutions are made of – dogged, determined, completely single-minded and utterly uninterested in herself. She would have been as at home on the Long March as she was mailing papers and manning literature stalls – no sacrifice or difficulty was too much for her, and nothing made her hesitate in her commitment.
Iris was a hard taskmaster – but because she drove herself far harder than she drove anyone else, and because she never criticised or scolded, she was able to encourage people to work without them realising she had done so – usually with a smile or a kind word, and always with an understanding tone to her voice that made those she spoke to feel special and valued.
Together with Comrade Godfrey, she lived a life that, just as much as anything they read at study classes hosted in the Cremers’ living room, taught a whole generation just what it meant to really be a communist. Their selfless, work-focused home was as warm and welcoming a place as any of us have ever known, and their example lives on in all who had the good fortune to experience their generous hospitality and gentle guidance.
Indeed, in this world of alienation and stress, where so many people are searching fruitlessly to find individual paths to personal fulfilment, Iris and Godfrey had found a formula for true happiness. A shared purpose and a life dedicated solely to that goal and lived entirely for others kept them calm despite the mountains of work that constantly confronted them, and kept them positive and determined despite the apparent enormity of the task they had set themselves.
Iris’s many political contributions are too numerous to be listed here. Having met her close comrades the Brars in the women’s movement in the late 1960s, she went on with them and Comrade Ella Rule to form the Union of Women for Liberation and then the Association of Communist Workers in the early 1970s.
A committed proletarian internationalist, she opposed British imperial policy in all its forms. In her younger years, she was especially active in the anti-Vietnam war movement, and in her solidarity with the Irish and Zimbabwean armed struggles. Later on, she gave the same dedication to opposing the British imperialist wars against Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria – never giving an inch to the imperialist propaganda that threw so many in the anti-war movement off their course.
Her hatred of imperialism and its divide-and-rule policy meant that she was equally active in opposing racism at home on the streets of Britain. In fact, she gave many years of her life to working for a progressive organisation of which she was not even a member – the Indian Workers Association (IWA-GB) – since she believed that it gave opportunities to bring revolutionary theory to at least some of the masses in Britain at a time when the revisionist CPGB (and later the CPB) and others who called themselves communist were abandoning that task.
Through the ACW, and through her practical support for Comrade Harpal Brar’s work as editor of the IWA’s journal Lalkar, Comrade Iris was part of a small but vital movement to keep Marxist-Leninist science alive in Britain. To this end, she spent a small legacy when her uncle died in 1979 on buying a printing press, to which she and Godfrey were chained from that moment forwards.
From the time of her involvement with those organisations there is hardly a single ACW or IWA leaflet, nor a single issue of Lalkar or of our own party’s paper Proletarian, that Iris did not have a hand in producing. Understanding the vital importance of theoretical understanding as a guide for the working-class movement, she gladly took on any and every practical task to facilitate bringing the knowledge and the masses together – whether writing, laying out, printing, collating, posting or selling on the streets.
No meeting was too small for her to attend, and no potential comrade too marginal to be worthy of her full attention. If she thought it might further the cause of humanity’s liberation, Iris, like Godfrey, was totally unstinting of her time.
She was also a great organiser upon whom a whole host of practical responsibilities rested. Almost every party stall, demo contingent and public meeting in London was run under Iris’s watchful eye – delegating where possible or simply doing herself what needed to be done to make sure that every event was as successful as possible.
For many years she was also one of the main driving forces behind the Stalin Society. The society was formed in 1991 when a group of anti-revisionist communists that included many of our own leading comrades came together in response to the collapse of the USSR, and in opposition to the deluge of anti-Soviet and anti-Stalin propaganda that followed the collapse. Understanding that the attacks on Stalin were in fact attacks on Leninism and on the building of socialism, the society set itself the unfashionable task of defending the world’s first and mightiest socialist state, and of countering the plethora of lies about its achievements and its leadership.
As secretary of the Stalin Society, Comrade Iris for years coordinated its programme, managed the practical aspects of meetings and communicated with the society’s members. She was greatly cheered in her last months to see the establishment of a host of new Stalin Societies around the world. Many of these have been directly inspired by the work of the British society, and all of them are a recognition of the fact that the question of Soviet socialism and Stalin’s leadership of socialist construction is becoming more, not less relevant as time goes by and as the crisis of the capitalist system deepens.
It was the great joy of both Iris and Godfrey’s life to see their long years of struggle come to fruition in the founding of our own party 10 years ago. They had put huge efforts over seven years in the attempt to build Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party (SLP) into a real alternative to the social-democratic left in Britain, and into bringing a Marxist understanding to the party. However, having been eventually expelled by Scargill and his acolytes for this activity, our founding comrades decided that the time was ripe to found a new, truly revolutionary party in Britain.
Long years of even harder work followed, as our small band had to establish a presence on the ground, to develop a consistent policy and analysis that could demonstrate our worth and seriousness to British workers, and to break through the barriers of hostility and suspicion that greeted our arrival on the political scene.
Iris and Godfrey threw themselves into this work. They never doubted that it was the right thing to do, or that it would eventually succeed. In the last weeks of both their lives, the subject to which their conversation turned again and again was the great encouragement they felt when looking at the direction and growth of our party, and at the seriousness and commitment of its new young cadres.
Comrade Iris lived her life for the struggle – she was truly the stuff that revolutions are made of. As we bid a last farewell to one who was a mother, an aunt, a sister and a comrade to so many, we make the only tribute our fallen comrade would ask of us – we promise that the example she set us will strengthen our resolve and that we will continue to struggle until the final victory of socialism in Britain.
Red salute to Comrade Iris Cremer, soldier of the revolution.
Iris’s funeral will be held on Thursday 17 April. All comrades and friends are invited to come and give her the send-off she deserves.
This motion was passed unanimously at the recent CPGB-ML party congress
This congress notes that the last five years of deepening capitalist overproduction crisis have imposed genuine and unaccustomed hardships on British workers, and have hit working and middle-class youth with exceptional ferocity.
Congress further notes that British capitalism in crisis has seen all three of the major (Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour) parties in administration, and has shown that any party that aims to preserve British capitalism through this crisis cannot but attack British workers in general, and can offer no prospect of a productive and meaningful life or prosperous and secure future for working-class youth in particular. Since our last congress in 2010, we have seen the intensification of a long campaign against education and welfare provision for working-class youth, coinciding with a precipitous decline in paid employment.
Congress commends those British youth who have responded with an increased militancy and growing political consciousness, which has indicated both to the British state and the wider working class their revolutionary potential.
Congress joins in the popular outrage felt amongst British youth and students in response to parliament’s abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) and skyrocketing higher-education tuition fees, which were introduced by a Labour government, and have been ratcheted up to a staggering £9,000 per year since 2011 by their ConDem successors. When these fees are combined with increasing living and accommodation costs, the reason that applications to university are down despite rising rates of unemployment becomes clear. We are witnessing the end of the era in which British working-class youth could access further and higher education; capitalism has declared the education of workers to be ‘uneconomic’.
Meanwhile, this congress notes that the burden of unemployment is growing, and probably stands above 10 percent nationally. Official figures have been systemically ‘massaged’ and under-reported over the last three decades, and can be considered only an indication of the problem rather than a true representation of it. The present figure is now based on the number of benefit claimants, so does not include the growing army of unemployed workers who have been deprived of their benefits, or those who receive incapacity benefits, students, the part-time under-employed, those over the age of retirement who cannot live on their pensions and are looking for work, or those classed as ‘illegal immigrants’ or asylum seekers, among others.
Congress further notes that more than one million British youth are unemployed: between 20 and 25 percent of all 16-24 year olds across the UK. As an index of discrimination, it merits attention that a staggering 60 percent of young black men are jobless. As a result of endemic unemployment and under-employment, declining and often derisory wages, 3.6 million British children are growing up in poverty (between a quarter and a third of all children in the UK), and that this figure is set to rise. A recent report indicates that 1,000,000 children go hungry in Britain every day.
This congress believes that in a country whose ruling class has looted the resources of an empire and ‘sphere of influence’ that covered two thirds of the globe for 300 years this is absolutely inexcusable. There is no shortage of money in Britain.
This congress does not believe the government and media-peddled lies that in these hard times, “we are all in it together”. We are wage-slaves in a global capitalist economy, where the super-rich capitalist exploiting class are growing ever wealthier, even as they ruin the economies of entire nations. Recent estimates show that the world’s super-rich finance capitalists have stashed $38tr of their ‘earnings’ in tax havens, simply to avoid paying any contribution from their ill-gotten gains towards the social wage of the labourers they exploit. In the last analysis, all their wealth is the product of our labour. Truly, “their wealth is built upon our poverty, their joy upon our misery”.
This congress notes that Britain is considered a tax haven for the super-wealthy, a place where ‘non-domiciled’ Russian gangster oligarchs (who have robbed the Soviet people’s wealth), oil sheikhs (who have sold the birth-right of the Arab peoples to western imperialists) and Greek shipping tycoons, among others, can launder their money no questions asked, and without having their capital taxed by the British state.
This congress believes that the interests of the working class, not the financial capitalists, should be considered ‘too big to fail’. But under our ConDem and Labour governments, the City of London bankers have accepted £1.2tr of British taxpayers’ money, while all useful government expenditure (housing, health care, and education provision) faces a 20 percent cut across the board. This is more than unnecessary, stupid, and inexcusable; it is deliberate and criminal. Our entire ‘democratic’ political system is designed to facilitate this capitalist gang in looting the masses of the people and, quite literally, stealing our future.
Congress further believes that, as a consequence of this crisis in the system of wage-slavery, working-class youth are increasingly aware of their alienation and disenfranchisement. Lacking youth facilities, encouraged to cultivate individualistic, consumer-driven, and destructive sub-cultures exemplified by the ubiquitous presence of alcohol and drugs in our communities, and in many instances driven to survive outside the limited avenues sanctioned by a failing system, an increasing proportion of youth are facing problems that make them capable of being criminalised.
This congress affirms that it is a sign of the bankruptcy of British capitalism that police repression (rather than jobs, housing, educational or economic support) is increasingly British society’s first and only response to our youth. We are living in a police state. In addition to political policing of demonstrations, and criminalisation of the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist sections of the population, working-class youth, whose problems the state cannot ameliorate, have become a constant target of police harassment, aggression and physical violence. While this has become a feature of life for all working youth, it is especially so for immigrant, black and Asian youth, who endure higher rates of unemployment and meet discrimination on every level in society, not least at the hands of our institutionally racist police forces.
Congress further affirms that British youth are angry and embittered at the prospect they face. In the absence of a strong and vibrant revolutionary movement to channel their anger and frustration, we have seen spontaneous outpourings of anger on the streets as never before. We are witnessing a change in the temper of our youth, students and young workers – as can be gauged by the spontaneous militancy shown during the London G20 demonstrations, the student protests of Nov/Dec 2010, young people’s overwhelming response to the TUC’s half-hearted call for action on 26 March 2011, to the Occupy and LSX movements, and, of course, by the nationwide youth uprising against police repression in August 2011, triggered by the latest cold-blooded police assassination of a young black man in Tottenham, and the clumsy attempted ‘cover-up’ that followed this murder.
Congress notes that Mark Duggan, a father of four children, was surrounded by 31 armed police in a taxi outside his home and shot dead. He was not armed, but, after his death, the metropolitan police lied to justify their actions. They claimed Mark shot at them first, and their act of murder was therefore ‘self-defence’. The disrespect accorded to his friends, family and the entire community was the final spark that lit the conflagration of nationwide anger against the police.
This congress believes that the CPGB-ML and Red Youth have been absolutely correct in refusing to equate the violence of the oppressed with the violence of the oppressor. The real thugs and vandals at work in Britain are the parasitic rich and their servants, the Camerons, Cleggs, Osbornes and Milibands; the politically-motivated judiciary and police. The real victims are the workers and youths themselves.
This congress further believes that education and organisation are our greatest weapons in the struggle to overthrow this parasitic order and build a new socialist society, but we refuse to renounce violent forms of struggle, for they too have their time and place. Meanwhile, our oppressor stands over us with a gun to our head, demanding that we proclaim ourselves non-violent and trust in his tender mercy!
This congress reaffirms that our task is not to disarm workers, but to combine their righteous and militant anger with a clear Marxist-Leninist understanding of the real enemy – capitalist imperialism and its representatives (all bourgeois parties, including the Labour party). What we need is not bourgeois pacifism but effective organisation and intensified struggle. We do not reproach those who rise up for their violence. Rather, we reproach our own movement for still being too small and weak to offer the kind of practical leadership that is capable of channelling their anger into more constructive acts of destruction. Spontaneous outpourings of rage, however justified, leave those involved isolated and subject to reprisal; they will not abolish capitalism, which is the cause of our misery.
Congress further reaffirms that capitalism can offer no solution to the problems faced by British youth. The level of police violence used against us is an admission by the British government and state, on behalf of capitalism, that they have no solutions to our problems. We must take our destiny in our own hands.
This congress therefore resolves to:
- Oppose the victimisation of young people in all its forms, including attacks on our education, housing, welfare, and employment.
- Oppose the criminalisation of young people, including all legislation and police powers that target working-class youth, the violent and discriminatory application of police powers and judicial sentencing against black, working-class and politicised youth.
- Oppose anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs), introduced in 1998, and their proposed successor, the criminal justice behaviour order (or CRIMBO) as arbitrary punishments intended to lay the blame for the decaying capitalist order on its young victims.
- Oppose arbitrary stop-and-search powers, which are used disproportionately against working-class youth, especially black youth.
- Do everything in our power to loosen the grip of establishment, overtly capitalist and reformist ideology and organisations on working-class, youth and student movements. We will oppose the pro-capitalist propaganda in our media, educational institutions and mainstream political parties. Labour party social democrats, Trotskyites, revisionists, pacifists and anarchists of various hues remain the chief obstacles to building a vibrant revolutionary movement in Britain.
- Promote the understanding that, while fighting for short-term gains and against the worst excesses of the capitalist economy and state, in the last analysis only a socialist planned economy administered by the dictatorship of the proletariat can solve the problems faced by working-class youth.
Recognising that Red Youth and the CPGB-ML have limited presence among the working class youth we seek to influence, this congress further resolves to take the following practical steps to increase the scope of our organisation and work:
- Each one, teach one! All members, even if isolated, should actively seek to recruit at least one other friend, student, or colleague into the organisation in their community or place of work. This is the surest way to double the size of our organisation, double our reach, and multiply our influence.
- Encourage all members to undertake a programme of personal study and participate in regular group study or discussion, wherever possible, using Proletarian, Lalkar and wider reading to strengthen their understanding in order better to be able to politicise the wider working-class.
- Encourage every member to subscribe to Proletarian and Lalkar, and read each issue. If there is a perceived problem with the material, criticisms should be fed back to the editors so that it can be improved. Each member should take at least one extra copy to sell on, and think about increasing this number progressively. Increasing circulation will help create fertile ground for recruitment.
- Encourage every member to maintain organisational contact with their nearest regional group, coordinate their action and attempt to attend regional and national events when possible. This will facilitate exchange of ideas and give each member a means of calling for help in organising local practical activity.
- Encourage every member to identify local, regional and national events and activities in which the party should take part, bring these to the attention of the party and participate in them personally. These may be local workers’ meetings, galas, rallies or demonstrations, solidarity or strike actions, union conferences or broad political fronts in which we can promote the aims of the party and the political interests of the working class, meet progressive workers, influence their opinion and recruit them to the ranks of the party.
- Encourage every member to read the available leaflets and party statements online. Copies can be printed off and distributed, using home, school or work facilities, or ordered in bulk from the party. Family, friends, school, university or the workplace may be your best avenue for dissemination, but members should consider the possibility of running regular street stalls where they calculate they can reach their target audience. If there is a particular issue that needs to be addressed that is not covered adequately by party literature, members should help write or commission the propaganda they feel is required.
- Encourage every member to think about writing letters or reports from their region (to be printed in Proletarian, on our website or in our party bulletin), or to inform their region (via the regional organiser) or the central committee (via the general secretary) of the problems, opportunities and successes faced by workers in their area and in their organisational work. This will help us to target our activity to our specific needs and help us grow in your area.
- Encourage all members involved in education to get involved in school, college or university debating societies, where they should seek to table debates on real political issues (Syria, Libya, war, capitalism, the economy, poverty, the food crisis, the environment, immigration, racism, etc) and invite party speakers. The party has been invited to speak at the Oxford Union in 2008, and at the Durham Union on three occasions. These debates, and many other presentations and speeches, are on our YouTube channel and can be used to support such a proposal.
- To think creatively, study diligently, act boldly, and, if in doubt, seek advice from local, regional and national comrades as to the best form of action to be taken to advance the interests of the group, the party, and the British and international working class.
We must learn to target our enemies precisely, to be systematic and broad in the sweep of our movement, and to ally ourselves and coordinate our action with the widest possible sections of the working class in order to tackle the crucial task of overthrowing the ruling class – by any means necessary.